Brightleaf mainstay Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings & Sweets participated this week in Triangle Restaurant Week, the Triangle's largest culinary event of the summer, for the first time in its ten years of business.
Founded in 2013 by Justin and Katie Meddis, Rose’s boasts a robust selection of creative pastries and dishes inspired by East Asian cuisines. Founded as a meat and sweets shop, Rose’s has evolved into a restaurant while still maintaining its original location and a bustling and upbeat yet laid-back atmosphere. At the same time, it has become a unique meeting place, not only in terms of what it has to offer — the best of both Eastern and Western cuisines — but also in its social function. Its popularity has made it a site for countless joyous events and lots of bonding, from dinner hangouts for college friends to lazy weekend lunches for Durhamite couples.
The menu at Rose’s is driven by its ingredients, sourced from a network of local farmers who regularly update Rose’s on newly harvested produce, according to chef and co-owner Justin Meddis. The restaurant uses these recently-harvested and in-season vegetables and fruits in a variety of dishes, including their seasonal salads and mochi cakes, which regularly change flavors.
These fresh ingredients are also used to hand-make everything at the restaurant, from soy bean paste to spicy chili oil, according to Meddis. This involved, hands-on style of preparation, best exhibited in processes like fermenting beans (which takes anywhere between a few hours to a few months), is what drew Meddis to East Asian cuisine.
Meddis expressed Rose’s wish to bring new people into the space during Triangle Restaurant Week. He particularly hopes that the new weekend brunch menu – available from 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays – will prove to be exciting and enjoyable, in addition to making more flavors available.
For Triangle Restaurant Week, Rose’s offered both a lunch and dinner special, at $20 and $30 respectively. Each one opened with a seasonal salad (changing based on ingredient availability) and ended with chocolate buttermilk cake, but the lunch featured a steamed bun as the main course, while the dinner used Rose’s signature belt noodles.
I ordered the dinner special, and started my meal with the multilayered new potato and wax bean salad, which was fun to behold and to taste. The dish has a salty umami flavor due to the inclusion of caramel-colored miso – a thick and rich paste made from fermented soybeans. This miso is interlaced with smoked tofu, freshly harvested golden fingerling potatoes and cooked but still crunchy wax beans. Further flavor comes from the use of garlic in the miso paste, punctuated by thin chips of fried garlic in the salad and paired playfully with light sesame sauce. Additional levels of texture and seasoning are provided by the trimmed eggplant and chopped basil hidden within the salad.
Along with a few other classic items, the belt noodles remain at the forefront of Rose’s ever-changing menu and are a customer staple, according to Meddis. The making of these nearly belt-wide noodles is informed and inspired by a two-week pre-pandemic trip through Southwest and Central China taken by Justin and Katie Meddis. A spin on Xi’an biangbiang noodles, the dish uses the same dough that udon noodles are made from instead of the traditional dough. It is topped with texture-rich ingredients that vary depending on the season and whether the customer orders the pork or vegetarian option.
I got the veggie belt noodles, which had plentiful amounts of half-cut shiitake mushroom, chopped bok choy and rhubarb covered in fried scallions and cilantro leaves. The dish is seasoned with made-from-scratch spicy chili sauce and sesame sauce, which is generously soaked up by the noodles after a thorough stirring. The resulting spice, with enough heat to appeal to even seasoned spicy food enthusiasts, is multifaceted, with touches of garlic and ginger.
As Rose’s approaches its ten-year anniversary in late June, Meddis expressed his gratitude for the integral and unique role Rose’s has served in the community. In particular, being able to watch Duke students from around the world enter Rose’s, enjoy the food and grow through the years before eventually graduating has been sweet and fulfilling for him. And he plans to keep Rose going, saying “this is the only [location], and it’s not going anywhere else.”
Triangle Restaurant Week (TRW) is “a week-long celebration of culinary excellence” that occurs bi-annually, taking place this month from June 5 to June 11. During this period, participating restaurants in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and surrounding areas offer three-course prix fixe menus. A list of participating restaurants in TRW can be found here.
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Katherine Zhong is a Trinity junior and local arts editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.